Jesus was teaching him an important lesson about faith: faith always looks to Jesus. Faith always looks for Jesus.
After His Transfiguration, Jesus comes down the mountain with Peter, James and John. They come upon a chaotic scene where the other 9 disciples are arguing with the teachers of the law and a large crowd is surrounding them. At the center of all of it is a father who brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples for healing. Unable to deliver the boy the father now throws himself at Jesus feet in desperation and Jesus heals the boy. Afterwards, in private, Jesus explained to the confused disciples that that kind of demon cannot be expelled by commands. It will only come out by prayer.
We will examine our text under 4 Headings: (1) The Dispute, (2) The Desperation, (3) The Deliverance, (4) A Different Demon
#1: The Dispute (14-19)
So Jesus, Peter, James and John all get to the bottom of the mountain and arrive upon a contentious scene. The other 9 disciples were in a heated argument with the teachers of the law and the large crowd was all around them listening.
What were they arguing about? My guess is that they were arguing about the demon-possessed boy. What were they arguing about? Well, since the 9 disciples weren’t able to drive out the demon this may have led to criticism from the teachers of the law: “Well c’mon boys can’t you save this boy from this demon? Maybe you and your Rabbi aren’t so powerful after all!” Now the disciples may have already had bruised egos that they didn’t get to go up the mountain, and felt insecure. If that were the case, their inability to deliver this boy would have made them even more embarrassed, their pride hurt even more. Especially since they failed in front of a huge crowd and the teachers of the law. Only a short while ago they returned to Jesus elated saying, “Even the demons obey us!” (Mk. 6:12; Lk. 10:17). Now they must’ve felt humiliated and weak. What do men do when they feel humiliated and insecure? They get angry. So, they probably looked at the demon-possessed boy still demon-possessed and said, “Well, you guys obviously can’t help either!” And so perhaps an argument over how to cast out demons ensued, insults traded and that quickly descended into a fine verbal slugfest.
Jesus shows up and asks what’s going on. The father of the boy explains why he’s there: a demon has possessed his son. The demon has made him deaf, mute and thrown him into water to drown him and into fire to burn him. The boy often siezes up and rolls on the ground with gnashing teeth and foam at the mouth. The father couldn’t help. The teachers couldn’t help. The disciples of Jesus couldn’t help. Only Jesus is left to help.
How often the Gospels show us parents. Parents are coming to Jesus for their children’s sake. How the life of a parent is dedicated to bringing a child to Jesus. Parents and grandparents let us not stop going to Jesus for our kids’ sake
Then Mark shows an unexpected response from Jesus: annoyance. It’s not His usual expression of compassion and tenderness and patience. He seems fed up. Think about it though: to go from that glorious experience on top of the mountain to this aggravating situation at the bottom of the mountain is quite a distance: in elevation and in experience. This isnt just about where Jesus meets this father, its also about where the father meets Jesus.
Why is Jesus annoyed though? Is it because the work never ends? No. Is it because His disciples couldn’t do anything? No. Is it because they were in a spat with the teachers of the law? No. Then what was it that annoyed Jesus? He tells us: “O unbelieving generation….” Unbelief is the greatest displeasure to God. “Without faith”, Hebrews 11:6 says, “it is impossible to please God.” By faith we are saved and not by works (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:22; Jn 3:16). Abraham was credited as righteous by God because he believed God (Gal. 3:6). When Jesus returns to the earth He asked if there will be any faith (Lk). God will not be pleased with any substitutes for faith. It’ll do no good with Him. Unbelief annoys God.
Let me say offer that there are two kinds of unbelief. On the one hand there is unbelief in people who have no interest in God, who don’t seek God, who don’t pretend that they are religious or “of the faith”. But then there is the kind of person who masks their unbelief with fake-faith. They don’t really have faith, but they are religious and have the religious vocabulary down and are at the religious activities. But in their hearts, they don’t really believe. In essence they are like this father: they are “coming” to Jesus but they don’t really have faith in Him.
So what we see here is that the disciples aren’t the only ones in a dispute. Jesus is in effect in dispute with an unbelieving generation.
#2: The Desperation (20-24)
They bring the boy and the demon goes nuts. He throws the boy into another fit, seizing up, rolling on the ground, foaming and gnashing. While this is going on, notice the lack of urgency in Jesus. He talks with the father: How long has this been going on? I would have thought Jesus knew. He does. Remember the rule: when the All-Knowing God asks questions it isn’t to gain information He didn’t have before. God uses questions for our benefit. Jesus is asking the father this question because before He does the miracle He wants the father to have it fresh in his mind how long this has been going on and no one and nothing has been able to do anything about it. So when Jesus delivers the boy the father will know.
Now before Jesus heals the boy we have one of the most famous passages in this Gospel. Read 22b-24. Let’s look at three things here:
First, the uncertainty the father approached Jesus with. “If you can do anything…” Ive been hard on this father, highlighting him as the anti-example of faith and prayer a lot in my teachings. But Ive never really seen him with compassion until now. Parents: have you ever felt your heart ripped out of your chest while watching your child go through something and you have no power to help them. You can do nothing but stand there, helpless, terrified, utterly vulnerable? This dad has pulled his unconscious son from lakes, dragged him from bonfires and treated his burn wounds, kneeled down and held him during violent seizures, not once but again and again. he has never heard his son say I love you and knowing his son never hears his fathers voice say I love you. This dad was desperate. Parents, can you relate to this dad? Have your children ever made you feel so desperate?
I believe Jesus did in fact feel compassion, otherwise He would never have done the miracle. All His miracles were acts of mercy, not carnival acts. He knew the boys sufferung – and the dads.
Second is the understanding Jesus gave the father. “If you can??” Everything is possible for him who believes.
What does Jesus mean that everything is possible for those who believe? Does it mean if I dont practice social distancing because I believe God will protect me from COVID-19 then I wont get infected? Does it mean I will recover from cancer if I just believe? Does it mean its possible my daughter will be free of her addictions if I just believe? Does it mean if I believe while praying the janis joplin prayer that it is indeed possible i will get a mercedes benz?
Notice Jesus says “possible” – not granted. its possible, but not automatic. with man its impossible meaning theres not even the potential for it to happen. but with God all things become potential, all things now become possibilities. but only for those eho believe. those who dont believe forfeit possibility. those who do believe have possibility opened up to them
Jesus says it this way because not every possibility will be granted. Not everything God can do is something He will do. This throws us back to the nature of prayer: a persistent, continuous tenacious, unrelenting appearing before God to vocalize our hearts deepest desires. Its possible because of Gods power but it is Gods decision if He will. Channel all your prayers to make Him willing.
Third is the father finds himself unable. Unable to believe. He needs help from Jesus. Eatlier I mentioned two kinds of unbelief: one is uninterested in God and the other is religious unbelief, which is unbelief hiding behind religion. There’s a third though, and weve talked before about it: its the unbelief of ignorance. Or you can call it undeveloped faith because it never had had an experience with God to give it something to believe in. its faith that is potential and it just needs God to show He is God and belief will spring. It isnt the calculated rejection of Jesus.
we have a father who has his eyes on his son, and not on jesus. and we understand and sympathize with him. but jesus was teaching him an important lesson about faith: faith always looks to Jesus. Faith always looks for Jesus.
#3: The Deliverance (25-27)
Nobody was able to order this demon around. He was strong and stubborn. But Jesus with one word expels him. The power and the authority of Jesus is mind-blowing. He identifies the spirit (“you deaf and mute spirit”) and then gives him a double command: 1) come out of him and 2) never enter him again. That demon just got evicted forever from that home. No one and nothing could ever give that demon access to that boy again, “What I open no one can shut, and what I shut no one can open.” The door to that boy was shut.
Now he didn’t go quietly, because it says it shrieked and convulsed the boy violently and then came out of him. I can’t imagine what the boy went through physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, having that demon peeled out of him in such a violent way. He must have been exhausted, he was laying there in a way that everyone thought he was dead.
I love what it says though: Jesus took him by the hand! Ah! That alone makes the incarnation worth it. To have God in the flesh if for no other reason than to have Him take you by the hand and lift you up. When you had no strength. When you couldn’t get up. When you couldn’t go on. When you were weak and unable. He took your hand. He took Peter’s hand when he was sinking. He took Peter’s mother in law by the hand after healing her fever and helped her up. He took Jairus’ daughter by the hand and raised her from the dead. He will take you by the hand. When its dark He’ll take you by the hand and lead you. When you’re sinking, He’ll take you by the hand and hold you up. When you fall He’ll take you by the hand and lift you up. When you cry out to Him He’ll stretch out His hand and take hold of you.
Have you reached for the hand of Jesus? He is reaching for you!
#4: A Difficult Demon (28-29)
“This kind” Jesus says. Not all angels are alike, and, neither are all demons. There seems to be different kinds, or, even perhaps “species” of demons. Rather than one mass homogenous group, God created angels of all sorts with all sorts of different appearances, features, looks, and powers.
This kind of demon 1) caused deafness and muteness, 2) caused violent siezures, 3) caused its host to harm himself by fire and water, and 4) could not be commanded to come out by any man. The only voice that could expel this demon from his host was that of its Creator – as Jesus demonstrated.
Lesson: dependance on the Lord. Their egos were inflated after returning from their first apostolic mission where they said, “Event he demons obey us!” Not this one. This one would only obey the voice of God the Son.
Lesson: the power of Jesus. The disciples were no match for this demon. This demon was no match for Jesus. In our lives we will face things that we are no match for. But those things are no match for Jesus.